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Is Legalization A Realistic Alternative To The War On Drugs?

4811 words - 19 pages

For years, the issue of legalization has been an increasingly controversial subject. Millions of dollars are spent annually in the War on Drugs causing many to wonder if this fight is cost-effective or if an alternative such as legalization would be more realistic than current efforts in drug prevention. Opponents' state that with legalization would come an increase not only in availability, but also with everything associated with that availability. This includes suffering of users and their loved ones, death of users and innocent alike, increases in health-care costs, cost to employers, drug-related crimes, and increases in various other social, economic, and emotional costs. On the other hand, advocates argue it is pointless to continue to ignore the presence of drugs in society. They feel society must acknowledge the now-illegal narcotics as it has with alcohol and tobacco. Legalization would result in purity assurance, labeled concentration of the product, obliteration of pushers, obliteration of drug crime, savings in expensive enforcement, and significant tax revenues. Both sides of the controversy are confident with the credibility and effectiveness of their respective arguments, making it necessary for society to ask itself whether legalization of narcotics is a realistic alternative to current prohibition and the war on drugs or if legalization would result in more negative consequences than positive.The United States government's current position on narcotics is prohibition. The cornerstone of drug prohibition in America came with the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914. The Harrison Act restricted the use of opiates, such as morphine, heroin, and cocaine, to medicinal purposes. Strong evidence suggests that the law was instituted in order to prevent casual or non-medical users, frequently called "dope fiends" from obtaining the drugs outside of medical practice. The American experience with drugs at the end of the 19th century demonstrated the serious problems that can be caused by the general use of a wide range of legally available drugs. These problems were judged unacceptable by Americans of that day. Prohibition was the result of nonpartisan public outcry over the negative effects of unrestricted drug use. (Trebach 41-44)The most important question in regards to legalization is how it would affect use and abuse in this country. Advocates of legalization such as Steven Duke and Albert Gross argue that those who do not use under prohibition will not use under legalization. Duke is a law professor at Yale University, and Gross is a lawyer from San Diego, California. They are greatly respected advocates for legalization, their greatest fame stemming from their co-authored book, America's Longest War. The key argument made by advocates Duke and Gross is that "the major reasons why people desist from smoking and drinking - health, social stigma, morality, aesthetics - are also applicable to the drugs currently labeled 'illegal'" (120)....

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